I parked by ‘The Cross’ in the middle of Turvey on Friday and was pleased to see a friend sitting on the bench near the church Lych Gate. She is Churchwarden at All Saints and was waiting for the Team Rector to arrive; they were meeting a specialist in risk assessment to see what they need to do before letting people into church again. The three of us chatted for a bit and when the assessor arrived they all went inside.
It seems bizarre to think of having to make a risk assessment before going to church – yet Christians through the ages and across continents have done that continually. It was a dreadful risk for groups of Jesus’s followers to meet together in the immediate aftermath of his death. He was a troublemaker who had been executed for sedition – anyone associating with him might expect to be arrested and put to death too. The catacombs around Rome, where Christians met to worship secretly, bear witness to some of the persecutions that took place in the early centuries of the church. Last year, 250 Christians were murdered on Easter Day in bomb attacks on Christian churches in Sri Lanka. The risks closer to home are not usually of a physical nature – but how ‘uncool’ is it these days in Britain to go to church?
Why would anyone want to go to talk to, and sing about, a man who lived centuries ago and said he was the Son of God? A man who said we should love God – and love everyone else in the world as much as we love ourselves – and as much as God loves us? A man who said we should give freely of what we own to support those less fortunate than ourselves? A man who said all people are equal, regardless of race or gender or ability? A man who said we should work tirelessly for peace in the world- and in our own lives? A man who said killing and stealing and lack of respect for others around us is just plain wrong? A man who supported the weak and powerless in his day and says we should do the same? Just how ‘uncool’ is all that?
It seems to me that the only thing in life more risky than going to church, for ourselves and for the survival of humankind, is not going to church and not learning to live after the example of Jesus.